San Francisco

Vienna School of Fantastic Realism

An exhibition entitled Vienna School of Fantastic Realism at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art purported to survey “significant impulses” from Austria, and was comprised of work by 15 painters. The ostentatious and trite promotional rhetoric in Alfred Werner’s preface to the shabby little catalog being circulated with the exhibition was futile advocacy in view of the blatant mediocrity and intellectual bankruptcy evident in the majority of the works shown. Ernst Fuchs stands alone in the sad company of his co exhibitors as representing at least a respectable degree of artistic integrity and discipline within the narrow terms he has chosen for his work—a somewhat backward looking artisanship concerned primarily with expressing traditional themes of European religious mysticism in symbols and allegorical fantasies full of stylistic references to such northern Renaissance masters as Bosch, Breughel, Dürer and Grunewald. The rest of the show was an array of hysterical and commercial banalities in derivative quasi Surrealism, some of it carefully contrived, but most of it pretty slapdash.

—Whitney Halstead